Why is Creative Commons great? My Flickr reuse stories


Creative Commons is a framework for easily labeling your creations with licenses that grant automatically rights which are broader than the ones under the traditional ‘All rights reserved’ copyright model. It doesn’t mean that you are giving away or giving up your copyright, but that who wants to use your work knows, with the help of the search engines typically, what they can do with what you created, and when do they have to ask you for more permissive use instead.

Joi Ito wrote on his blog that Creative Commons was looking forward to receive some examples of how the CC licenses helped reusing photos from Flickr. I already had in mind exactly a story like this, so it took me just a few minutes to put together an email to Melissa at Creative Commons…

I publish all my photos on Flickr with a CC-A (Creative Commons Attribution) license. As long as people credit me as the original author of my work, I am glad for them to take the photos for any possible purpose, and if they have a way to make money through it in the meantime, so much the better!

Birka - viking island
Photo of Birka island close to Stockholm

I took this photo at a boat trip a couple of hours from Stockholm in Sweden where I went for a few days with my family. These excursions are a lot of fun now in Europe, for just three-four days maybe with low cost airlines bringing you anywhere. Ryanair leaves just a few minutes of bus drive from where I live. It is so cool to be able and hop on a normal urban bus, take the plane, and an hour or two later be in a different climate, country, and culture. The fact that the tickets cost just 10 euro or so, if you plan ahead, help a lot as well!

A few months after I posted the photo, I received an email from a company compiling a travel guide of Sweden, alerting me about the fact that they wanted to include the photo in their new guide, if I agreed. I told them that I was happy, and that given the license they wouldn’t have even had to ask… Now it is funny, as I am writing this, I do not remember the name of the guide: but since they gave me credit for the photo, I know that it is enough to type in Google “david orban sweden guide birka” and yes, it comes back as the first result: Schmap Art and Entertainment, correctly credited, linked back to the Flickr photo page, and to the appropriate CC license!

An other example is the inclusion of my photos of the philosopher Daniel Dennett, and physicist Eric Drexler on their respective wikipedia pages.

From my photo
Daniel Dennett and David Orban

to his wikipedia article:
Daniel Dennett's wikipedia article

I like to take photos of people, with or without me standing on their side 🙂 and these two are among my heroes. The photos were taken and put on Wikipedia without people asking my permission, which they didn’t need, and properly crediting me on the page of the photo. The fact that the photos were both appropriately cropped, to focus on the
subject on the article, and taking me out of the picture of course is also an important positive element of the freedoms that the CC licenses automatically grant to the people reusing the pictures.

Eric Drexler

It is interesting that exactly because I was so positively moved by the pictures being taken, and that I was preparing to write up something like this, I actually managed to take a before, and after picture of the Drexler article:

Eric Drexler on Wikipedia - before
before the photo

Eric Drexler on Wikipedia - after
after the photo

So what is especially cool about these other screenshots? That they are a reuse squared! Because they are not the plain screenshot of the Wikipedia article, but that of the Apple Macintosh Dictionary application, which feeds itself on Wikipedia. So these are a fairly long chain of culture propagating richly, from author, to source, to application, all smoothly, given the automation afforded by the CC license!

And a final example…

All my slideshows on Slideshare are based on CC licensed Flickr photos, and themselves are also CC-A licensed. For example:

I have a fairly personal slide style, where I have typically 10-20 slides, each with three-four words in a sentence, and one photo. I invariably choose the photos through a search on Flickr, always using advanced search and picking CC licensed photos that I can also change, and use commercially. Even if today I release my material without
asking for any payment, or even without placing Google ads on my site, I want to be sure that if I want to publish a book for sale in the future, I do not have to go back and change my images. (Hey, it is annoying that Steve Jurvetson’s photos pop up so prominently in my searches, but hey, it is not his fault, is it? 🙂 You can also see that I credit the photos on the last page of my slide deck…) Without Flickr I would not be able to create these slideshows, and I would definitely be a less effective speaker (or would resort to Larry Lessig’s style of presentations, which are anything but ineffective!)

So I hope these three examples help you understand why I love Creative Commons, and why you should also always label what you create under the license of your choice.